Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dark night of the Soul

December 14
Saint John of the Cross

Christian minister and author Frederick Buechner quotes the late John Updike to explain what is more commonly known as "the dark night of the soul" by Catholics. As Buechner said, “Perhaps God saves his deepest silence for his saints.”

Blessed Mother Teresa’s decades-long "dark night of the soul" was revealed after her death in Come Be My Light. Her bouts with doubt and the distance she felt from God surprised many who considered her the epitome of perfect Christian service and joy. Perhaps God already considered her a saint when he canonized her with his deepest silence during her life.

The greatest saints have battled God’s deepest silence. Even the saint we celebrate today, St. John of the Cross gave it an apt name. It should not surprise faithful Catholics when they find themselves enmeshed in God’s silence, when deep faith and deep prayer yield only deep silence.

Dante expressed the lowest point of Hell as literally the furthest distance from God, where Satan lies encased in ice at the center of nothingness. There are Hells on Earth that we pass before we reach God’s place for us in eternity. When prayer only echoes in the silence without a response, we face our darkest nights. The only comfort we have then is that at least God is listening to the prayers of others who might keep us in their intentions as we experience the darkness.

There’s comfort in knowing that some of His greatest saints had souls that also knew dark nights. In that, we are not alone.